Historically, the New York Yankees’ AAA teams were in the East or Midwest. The Newark Bears of the International League were owned by Yankees and played in Ruppert Stadium, named for Yankees owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert. The Kansas City Blues were a Yankees affiliate in the American Association at the time of the Athletics move to Kansas City in 1955. Additionally, Syracuse, Columbus and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre have had long stints as Yankee outposts. But in 1978, the Yankees found themselves affiliated with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.
The Bronx Bombers’ stay in the Pacific Northwest was planned from the outset to be for only one season. The Yanks were set to play in Columbus, Ohio, but the ballpark would not be ready until 1979. The Twins pulled out of Tacoma after the 1977 season leaving “The City of Destiny” as the only destination for New York.
This one and done season is commemorated by a 25-card, team-issued set sponsored by Puget Sound National Bank and produced by Cramer Sports Promotions. This is the same Cramer who would go on to form Pacific Trading Cards. I have owned the set for years and always found it intriguing. My favorite aspect of this set is the “TY” logo on the cap, jacket and jersey. It is a great take on the traditional Yankees script.
The 1978 PCL Co-Champion Yankees (Final series against Albuquerque was rained out) were managed by ex-Seattle Pilot, Mike Ferraro. Mike was originally signed by the Yankees as a player and returned to the fold as a minor league skipper. His success in Tacoma may have helped earn him the Indians’ managerial job in 1980.
Like Mike Ferraro, Jerry Narron would go on the be a big-league manager. The career backup catcher would pilot Texas and Cincinnati.
The most interesting card in the set belongs to pitching coach Hoyt Wilhelm. Apparently, The Hall-of-Fame knuckleballer could teach pitching mechanics beyond mastering a knuckleball grip.
In addition to Hoyt’s card, there are several other shots snapped in the Cheney Stadium clubhouse. Since the photos were taken early in the season, inclement weather may have forced the photographer inside. I can attest to the fact that few stadiums are as cold and damp as Cheney in April and May. One such example is this flattering image of Dave Rajsich.
Generally, the photos are of poor quality, with faces obscured by shadows. The low-angle photos coupled with the shadows make it hard to discern faces, rendering some players almost indistinguishable. Domingo Ramos and Damaso Garcia are prime examples.
The card for Tommy Cruz is another example not being able to see facial features. He is the sibling of the great Astro and Cardinal, Jose Cruz, and the uncle of Jose Cruz, Jr.
Another brother of a long-time major league player is Brian Doyle, whose brother Denny toiled with the Phillies, Angels and Red Sox. Brian’s photo is the only one not taken at Cheney Stadium. He is pictured in the road uniform, which features a basic (Tacoma) Yankees away jersey plus a logo patch on the sleeve.
Several other players saw some action with New York and other clubs. Dell Alston had a stint with Oakland, while Kammeyer, Werth and Zeber played in the Bronx.
Also, Mets fans may remember Roy Staiger. The utility man always reminds me of the actor Roy Steiger.
Now that you know more than you ever hoped to know about the 1978 Tacoma Yankees, I am sure you will race over to eBay or COMC to grab your own set. If you are willing to settle for a card or two, I have some duplicates.